Okay, since every thread is going to get at least partially hijacked by the possibility of a Ryan Kesler trade, I thought I'd pop this over here to get some of it centralized, if possible. I'm going to kick it off by putting up a couple comments I wrote over the past couple days, so it's a hint out of date, but gives a wall to bounce ideas off of.
It’s a big chip to play – as big as Luongo, and I think the return we got for Schneider was perfectly acceptable. I’m willing to trust Gillis with a move like this.
Kesler is the most important forward on the team – the most ice time in the league, our shut-down centre who can get 30 goals, plays both special teams (15th in the league short handed TOI, 47th on the power play), can play all three forward positions, has his ice time increase every playoffs, is a physical force on a team not particularly known for it. Should he wish to go, then it’s a huge opportunity for a restock and the Canucks should take it. It’s as simple as that.
His salary is $5,000,000 for two more years, which isn’t a bad price at all for what he contributes. Last season was his first with any serious injury trouble, for folks who want to play that up; he’s played every game this year, though obviously that’s ended right now. He has returned excellent value for the Canucks in the time he’s been here, and I think other teams will have noted that.
Who would be potential targets, though? Not a long shot to say there are 29 other teams who would like him on their roster, but he’s going to be controlling his destination to some degree with that full NTC. So that’s going to depend on why he wants to leave (if, indeed, he does). If he just wants to be "on an American team", then the field is wide open; if he also wants to be "closer to home", the options are a bit more limited (anything from, say, Chicago and East, possibly including Toronto); if he wants those plus being moved to a contender, then there are fewer teams in the running (but be ready to dress in blue and green for a couple more months at least, buddy).
To me, the biggest gem I would try to get is a player – a rental would be fine – and a top five pick: getting to the lottery would be a nice addition to the seaon, and if you want to rebuild that’s a great way to show it. The Canucks won’t get into that position by their play, so the only option is a trade. Would a team give up such a high pick, though? Well, they should: Kesler is 29 years old and a proven asset who will be playing for another decade (his defensive skills are going to keep him in the league even if his scoring drops) who is signed through 2016. Even a top five pick is no guarantee of a game-breaker: so would you go for a sure thing, or wait two or three years to see if you’ve picked an NHLer, never mind a do-everything leader. The Canucks, on the other hand, can afford to wait a couple years and have what’s frankly looking like quite the batch of youngsters come up virtually all at once.
Think Nieuwendyk for Iginla: Iginla was a better player while they were both playing, but might not have been. Good, even great junior numbers don’t always translate to the NHL. Joe Alphabet, on the other hand, got Dallas had two Finals appearances and one Cup.
So, my favourite target for a trade? Two of them: Buffalo or Florida. Florida only fits one of the imaginary criteria above (in the US), and Buffalo only two (closer to Livonia), but they can get me what I’d want.
Florida: First round pick (currently fourth, could slip to fifth by season’s end) and Upshall. Upshall is a more physical – and more often injured – player than Kesler, and won’t replace his points, but is signed for the next season at $3.5 million and has managed 52 games so far. He’s a 3rd (borderline 2nd) either-side winger who’s reasonably fast and a nightmare to play against. The body’s nice, but the pick is the real draw. Why would Florida go for this? Kesler’s had injury trouble, but not to the degree Upshall has, and is a much higher producer.
Buffalo: First round pick (currently first overall, but I’d be okay with the Islanders pick, should they choose not to defer until 2015) and Moulson (speaking of the Islanders). Moulson is a true rental, being an UFA at the end of the season, and has a first line player’s finish. He would add scoring at the expense of defense and physical play, but I’m fine with that trade-off right now. We have players who can play defensively, we need finish. Why would Buffalo go for this? The option of getting nothing for Moulson is something they want to avoid, and with Ott also being a UFA at the end of the year, bringing in a somewhat less penalty prone physical player who’s signed for two years isn’t a bad idea.
Again, my trust in Gillis making a move like this is in his ability to NOT make a move: I don’t think he has a panic button. If he did, Luongo would have been gone for Ales Hemsky (or similar) two years ago.
*Later that week...*
*(I'm adding this bit because they seem to be the current favourites as far as destinations go:)*
I realise the odds of getting what I want with the two imaginary deals above are remote because it boils down to Kesler and where he would want to go. Bearing in mind he did sign a RFA deal with Philly; and Pittsburgh is, well, Pittsburgh; and Detroit is as close to home as he can get, that these are the most likely destinations. None of them can provide a top-ten first round pick, so a pick means much less to me, but I’ll admit Pittsburgh intrigues me.
They apparently made a pitch for him pre-Sochi, and also need a defenseman with Martin not back yet and Letang’s shocking stroke taking him out for at least the rest of this season. So that is two parts Vancouver has that can fulfill the Penguins’ wish list. It’ll mean negotiating two Vancouver NTCs and playing Calculator Hell to work out cap space (both teams up against it), but it can be done – through salary retention deals, if nothing else. Any talks with them would have to start with Sutter and Bennett, I should think.
As for Philly, they have needed to improve their defense for years, and have done little about it, so again two established players would be heading out. Courturier and Raffl would have to be in the offer or hang up the phone. Don’t think I’m overvaluing Kesler, here – one of Vancouver’s top four D is headed back as well. These are things the Flyers need in their lineup, and it’s not like GM Holmgren is shy about making big moves…
But what’s Detroit got? Tartar and Sheahan could be good value, but they’re still both more about potential than play – especially Sheahan. Then again, this is a team that doesn’t necessarily need a defender, unlike the other two, so would be going for Kesler alone. Still, I don’t see many well established roster players they would give up (or the Canucks would take). It still could be Kesler’s preferred destination, which could diminish the return slightly.
Naturally, it might be that nothing happens (just ask Lou) and we get ‘stuck’ with Kesler. Boo hoo us, yeah? ;)